Translated by MATCHA_En
Cemetery Landscape: Feel Nostalgia And Tranquility At Yanaka Cemetery, Nippori
Written by Takuro Komatsuzaki
Yanaka Cemetery in Nippori, is a peaceful place where visitors can enjoy strolling along wide avenues in a charming, old Japanese downtown, all the while surrounded by a little-seen side of Japanese culture.
What is of cultural heritage value in Japan?
A friend of mine, Kinoshita answered "Cemeteries". So I followed his advice and visited Yanaka Cemetery located in Nippori, Taito-ku.
It's like Dropping by a Friend's Place
I shouldn't have asked him...
Thinking that maybe he was just teasing me, I passed through the south exit of the Nippori Station on the JR Yamanote Line and then turned left to take the stairs up.
I reached the top of the stairs to find many bicycles there. If you ever visit Japan, you will see bicycles practically everywhere you look in the city. If you visit Japan, you will often see many bicycles so tightly parked around train stations that it might seem impossible to separate them from one another.
It's only a 30 meter straight walk from here. You will see Yanaka Cemetery right ahead of you.
On both sides of the straight road are bloomed cherry trees. Since not only cemetery visitors, but also locals take this road to get to the Nippori Station, there are always many people here.
It is very easy to get to the cemetery: from the south exit of the Nippori Station, it is only 200 meters, or 3 minutes away. If you have ever dropped by a friend's place as a student not because you have some purpose in mind, but just because they lived nearby, then you may remember that feeling. I had the same feeling while visiting Yanaka Cemetery.
All the green part of the map is Yanaka Cemetery, which is much much bigger than the red part that is the station. The cemetery has an area of approximately 100,000 square meters and 7,000 tombstones, making it one of the largest cemeteries in Tokyo.
Strolling straight through the cemetery, on the right is the setting sun illuminating tombstones, some with offerings of flowers on them.
There is a column-shaped one which looks like the rook from a chess board. It must be over 2 meters tall, and looks formidable.
This one is more standard in is size and shape. Are those flowers offered dandelions? Dandelions are not an impressive type of plants, but their cheerful yellow color makes for a clear contrast between this grave and those with elegant blue and white lilies.
So I feel that by looking carefully at the tombstones and offerings of each grave, I am able to see what the deceased and their family were like.
Feel Someone's Presence
"A cemetery is a depressing place." That is what I thought before the visit, but my stereotypical view has been ruined into pieces like sand you grasp running through your fingers.
I realized one thing, though, which is that a cemetery is filled with the warmth of people. You can always feel someone's presence here.
I wonder what messages the bereaved ones left with their flowers. Did they choose the flowers because the deceased liked them? Or is it because of the flower's own meanings? I can't help thinking about the meaning of the flowers offered and the stories behind it.
I realized that it was already 17:30. The sun is almost set.
I was wrong about cemeteries. The stone paved road is heartwarming. I wish I'd have noticed it much earlier and visited cemeteries many more times by now. That is what I am thinking right now. Having come here, I finally realized that Kinoshita was right. Cemeteries and their landscapes are of tangible cultural heritage value in Japan.
Because you always feel someone and their warmth here, you feel like dropping by again.
Address: Tokyo, Taito, Yanaka 7-5-24
Nearest Station: JR Nippori Station
Access: Take the South exit of Nippori Station on JR Yamanote Line. Turn left to go up the stairs and then walk straight about 30 meters. You will see Yanaka Cemetery in every corner of your sight.